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Kumbh Mela Festival, India

Kumbh Mela Festival

Kumbh Mela has its origins in a mythical battle between Hindu gods and demons over a kumbh (pitcher) filled with the nectar of immortality. The story goes that the pitcher broke in the fight, scattering drops of nectar in four riverside cities: Nashik, Ujjain, Haridwar, and Allahabad. When the planets align in the same position as the original battle (approximately every 3 years), pilgrims flock to these four places, while the larger Maha Kumbh Mela happens every 12 years in Allahabad (most recently January-March 2013).

The highlight of the mela (fair) is the most auspicious bathing day (Mauni Amavasya Snan), when bathers wash away their own sins from this lifetime as well as those of their family’s 88 previous generations. This ensures liberation from the eternal cycle of rebirth for oneself and one’s ancestors. The bathing starts at 4am, with the Naga sect of crazy naked men the first ones in. It’s a complete zoo of people, so the Nagas knock people down on their way into the water. An estimated 30 million people bathed together in the Ganges on February 10, 2013.

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